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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 10, 2011 8:27pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: The Ives Touch, Part II

CONTINUED...


Years later in ‘78/79, the Dead started developing a separate Space section in the second sets where they could explore formless music without rules. It was kind of a continuation of the old feedback segments or the Phil & Ned sets; or as Garcia called it, “the thing of taking chances and going all to pieces, and then coming back and reassembling.” Sonically it harked back to the Acid Tests where structures were abandoned, chaos reigned, the Thunder Machine roared, and pranksters babbled into microphones. McNally calls Space “the direct musical heir to the Acid Tests, with roots in Ornette Coleman and Charles Ives.” As Garcia described it in ’85, “We’ve been doing some interesting things in the last couple of years in our most freeform stuff that’s not really attached to any particular song. It’s just freeform music, it’s not rhythmic, it’s not really attached to any musical norms, it’s the completely weird shit.”
Interestingly, the same way that Ives would organize his music around historical or geographical themes – say, the local associations of “Three Places in New England,” or the “Holidays Symphony” with different movements based on different holidays – the Dead would similarly organize Space around a central but unspoken idea. Garcia again: “We’ve been picking themes for that, and thinking of it as being like a painting or movie. ‘Reagan in China’ was one of our themes. One time we had the ‘Qaddafi death squad’ as our theme. Sometimes the theme is terribly detailed, and sometimes it’s just a broad subject…[so that] part of the music at times has some…other level of organization that pulls it together, makes it really interesting.” (Actually, there were a couple times in April ’82 when the theme was spoken, the famous “Earthquake” and “Raven” spaces that Lesh narrated.)
Weir also said in ’85, “When Garcia and I go out and play [Space] together…it goes completely different places every night. That stuff’s actually more mobile, in terms of the harmonic directions it takes, than any of the stuff we used to do… I think it’s starting to open up to where the space jams are getting looser and looser… For a while there a couple of years back we would discuss current events or something before we went out, and every now and again we’ll still do it: come up with a motif for the jam. It’s almost never anything really serious… Usually we’re just amusing ourselves back there during the drum solo, coming up with joke motifs for the jam: ‘okay, you’re the stewardess aboard this hijacked airliner,’ or something like that.”
Garcia said, “What it does is provide us an invisible infrastructure which everybody can interpret freely. It’s a neat thing because anyone can interpret it however they want and it still provides a kind of centerpiece for us all to look at… It’s provided for us more interesting shapes for that non-formed…shapeless music. Before we started using that idea, that music would tend to get dispersed so far that you couldn’t relate to it at all; and sometimes it would make an effort to turn into something familiar real fast, so that it would hover between these two poles and turn into something…not quite as promising as it could be.”

For the Dead, Space really took off once they started using MIDI instruments in the late ‘80s and they turned into a kind of ‘surreal orchestra’ with everyone imitating different sounds. (The Dead liked this so much they made a whole album from it, Infrared Roses in ‘91.) Though it’s hard for many listeners to take, the Dead were very excited by the new possibilities of MIDI. Lesh exclaimed at the time, “It just cracks me up. I love it! Some of the things those guys come up with! I don’t think even know what it’s going to sound like when it comes out sometimes… Going through these tapes, I just heard a ten-minute segment of Space that was just really amazing! [Most likely 3/30/90.] It started out with a drone and big harmonic structures over this drone, and then I guess it was Jerry who started to play this demented horn thing that sounded like Mahler’s Third deconstructed – there’s this trombone passage in Mahler’s Third, and it was like he was parodying it. It was silly, very funny. I don’t even know if he knows the piece, actually. Then at the end of it there was a great E cadence and some well-developed craziness.”
And in a spring ’94 interview, Lesh said, “On this tour there was some really amazing space music. Three nights in a row we did some great stuff in Atlanta… There’s always a thread through all space jams, and that’s Jerry’s ‘I Love New York’ bassoon kind of tone. That’s what I call it!” Even Kreutzmann said, “Those guys are doing stuff with their new MIDI setups that’s been blowing my mind! I’ve really been enjoying it… [I’d like to] maybe get back out there and play some free music with Jerry, like we did in the early seventies… I’m hearing such neat stuff in what he’s doing and I’d like to add to it; I hear drum parts on it. You’re not locked to tracks or stops or left or right turns. It’s free and open; you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s got a three-dimensionality that I love because it can go in any direction.”

On top of the MIDI sounds, any number of strange guests or samples might appear during Space: voices, revving motorcycles, slot machines, train whistles, frying bacon, the Rite of Spring, even chanting monks. It’s also been noted that “the Dead’s ventures into the swirl were also inspired by the tape music experiments of Steve Reich, musique concrete, the compositions of Stockhausen, Bartok, and…turn-of-the-century maverick composer Charles Ives.” As Steve Silberman writes, “MIDI allowed the Dead to…add voices from any culture, any instrument, even non-musical textures, to create a spontaneous landscape of sounds… This was a time when Space could incorporate traditional instruments from the rainforest, Chinese and Balinese metallophones, talking drums and kalimbas, hiphop-esque tape-loops, and even entire orchestras playing chords from the Rite of Spring… The bandmembers welcomed any sound they could hear or imagine into the music.”
For Lesh, these episodes must have been something like a return to the Anthem days and his avant-garde sound explorations in college. He’s spoken of experimental tape performances where all the sounds heard outside in the ‘real world’ afterwards sounded like continuations of the music. He theorized: “I think the whole Space section, which essentially evolved from our feedback experiments, is a response to electronic music and concrete music, found objects music, tape music, that sort of thing. Some of the discontinuity that we get going, the heterophony of everybody playing something different, probably comes from those worlds to a degree.” (Space can even resemble Garcia’s description of the Anthem album: “We were making a collage…that’s more like electronic music or concrete music where you are actually assembling bits and pieces toward an enhanced non-realistic representation.”)
There were many long Spaces from those last years where the band was more adventurous and more committed, and definitely weirder, than anywhere else in the sets. Sonically, with their dense orchestral sound, they perhaps came closer here than anywhere to the Ives soundworld.

To illustrate, I’ll point out a Space that was actually played after Garcia died. On 6/16/96, the San Francisco Symphony had an event called the American Festival honoring various west-coast “maverick composers” such as John Cage, Lou Harrison & Steve Reich. At the end of the event, Lesh, Weir, Mickey Hart, and Vince Welnick played a short “Space for Henry Cowell,” with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas on MIDI piano. It’s a far-out space, very much in the Dead vein but also a close approach to an Ivesian soundscape:
http://www.archive.org/details/1996-06-16.sfo.aud-fm.vernon.19785.sbeok.flacf [filed as a “Phil & Friends” show]
This performance was a tribute to Henry Cowell, an early 20th-century modernist composer (and friend of Ives’). Remember that Lesh had been introduced to Ives through reading Cowell, who in his own right had a strong, direct influence on later avant-garde music. (For instance, Cowell had played experimental concerts with John Cage at Mills College, where Lesh and Tom Constanten went. The “prepared piano” music that TC plays on the Anthem album was derived from John Cage, who in turn was inspired by Cowell’s string-piano techniques.)
The tape was first aired on David Gans’ radio show on 4/28/97, when Lesh appeared to chat and play a few music selections he’d been involved in. The show doesn’t seem to be online, but here is a transcript:
ftp://gdead.berkeley.edu/pub/gdead/interviews/Lesh.04.02.97
Lesh talks about the show: “There were several piano pieces performed that were written by Henry Cowell, who was, in a way, the sort of patriarch of this whole West Coast experimental scene. He was writing outrageous tone-cluster music at age 17 in the early part of this century, in the teens and twenties. At the end of it, Mickey, Bob, Vince, myself, and Michael Tilson Thomas collaborated on a group improvisation, which was based on themes that Henry Cowell had composed, and that had been heard earlier in the program as part of the regular performance. That was a great deal of fun to do, especially to watch Michael really cut loose...” [Lesh goes on to praise Thomas.]

Lesh also played a piece from Stravinsky’s Firebird (with himself conducting the Berkeley Symphony), and part of a Bruce Hornsby show which he and Weir joined in. As a sidenote, it’s worth mentioning that Bruce Hornsby was also an Ives fan, down to quoting Ives pieces in his own songs, though I don’t know how much his playing with the Dead reflects this:
http://www.jambands.com/features/2011/06/07/bruce-hornsby-brings-the-noise?2

With Garcia gone, Lesh was on his own, and for a few years he mostly stayed off the stage – as he later said, “It was really hard to make the decision to tour at all, for me, because after Jerry’s death I didn’t really want to do it. I didn’t think I wanted to play music with anybody but him. He was the reason I joined the band in the first place.”
So Lesh returned to one of his first loves, composing. In one interview he described a new piece in which he applied the Ivesian collage technique to Grateful Dead material: “For a couple years I’ve been working on an orchestral piece that involves 29 Grateful Dead songs, all orchestrated together. I’m deconstructing them, taking the raw material—a melodic line here, a chord pattern or rhythmic riff there—and weaving them together like a tapestry. In some sections one song is accompanied by another; at one point I have Dark Star, Playing in the Band, Saint of Circumstance, and the Terrapin Station fanfare all going simultaneously.”
He also talks about it in the radio show with Gans: “I was trained in classical music, and I studied composition for many years before joining the band. One of the things that I’m doing now is composing a song symphony that’s based on the Grateful Dead song themes – the melodies of the songs, chord progressions, rhythmic riffs. I’m going to weave them all together in a seven-movement, 45-minute composition, which I’m working on now. Hopefully I’ll have it done by this time next year. And there have been some record companies that are interested in it, and so hopefully I’ll be able to find an orchestra to play it – and maybe I can conduct it myself… There might be a part where there’ll be two conductors necessary… In a way, it’s my way of finding closure with the Grateful Dead music…”

A couple years later, though, he went on the road again with Phil & Friends, and in an ’03 interview he declared that the ‘Grateful Dead symphony’ was not to be:
“I decided not to do the symphonic version of Grateful Dead [music] for many reasons. I was looking for closure – this was right after Jerry died and I was looking for closure with that music so I could go on and do something else. Turns out, the music won’t let me have closure. It wants me to keep playing [it] – it wants to be reinterpreted… It’s only alive when we’re playing it, digging into it and expanding it and playing it in new ways… I just realized there wasn’t going to be any closure, I was gonna keep playing this music. I was going to keep reinterpreting it, and there was no way in hell I was going to freeze it, to petrify it in amber.”

*

It is time to close; and there are some other Dead connections with Ives that I won’t really get into. For instance, their use of specifically American themes to color their music, as a kind of nostalgic look at “the old America.” (As Weir said, “We espouse the American musical tradition… We’ve built our own little aesthetic around American traditional music, or our own generalized ideal” of it – and it seems Ives saw himself in a similar way. Ives even wrote a cowboy song…)
Also, their use of indeterminate or ‘aleatoric’ music (to use the scholarly term), where parts of the performance are left up to chance and the performer’s interpretation. The Dead of course based their entire approach on this; but in the modern classical field, Ives was an early innovator. (Ives has even sometimes been compared to Charles Mingus in his approach.)
Here are some thoughts on Ives from one music scholar:
http://www.richardtrythall.com/12.html
“Another innovation unique to Ives was the amount of interpretive discretion he left to the performer, particularly in [the] keyboard works which are heavily based on his…improvisational technique. As an inveterate keyboard improviser, Ives…evidently learned a good deal from his own improvisations…[and] characteristically attempted to maintain the irregularity of thought and variety of gesture which free improvisation can produce… [Ives] leaves the performer a wide margin of choice in shaping this material… Ives intends that his keyboard music…be performed in a spontaneous manner, with that sense of abandon, of ‘letting oneself go’…which characterizes improvisation.”

I’ll end with one final quote from an Ives listener, reflecting on what the music means to him:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/ives/13_Essays.htm
“Rather than presenting a unified, rational view of the world, rather than simplifying our experience, Ives’ music usually portrays the world as fragmentary, disjointed, and most of all, incomplete… His music reveals the underlying, complex, chaotic and fragmentary reality that’s all around us. We typically ignore this dissonant reality by sticking to well-worn paths, whether they are well-worn musical conventions or well-worn ways of thinking… Ives takes child-like delight in the ever-shifting sound fragments and colors that his musical kaleidoscope provides… Now while Ives was attuned to the fragmentary, mutable nature of reality, he was also preoccupied with the idea of unity, oneness, and transcendence… There is a sense of continual struggle, striving to make sense of things, to see what’s just around the corner – even if it can only be seen with a sidelong glance after a long, tough slog… His music is always looking, always striving; it rarely arrives… Ives’ music is not tidy. It can’t be contained by normal musical forms because these structures do not accurately represent the way that Ives perceives the world… Ives’ music acknowledges that our perceptions of the world – and the understanding that we construct from those perceptions – are in a constant state of flux. It is a never-ending process.”


*

See also:
Shaugn O’Donnell’s essay “American Chaos: Charles Ives & the Grateful Dead” in the “Grateful Dead In Concert” book
Richard Kostelanetz article on Ives in “Dead Reckonings” book
http://www.archive.org/post/384412/influence-of-classical-music-on-the-gd
http://www.archive.org/post/373487/mahlers-3rd-phil-lesh-interview-spring-1990-space
http://www.popular-musicology-online.com/issues/04/wood-01.html - “The Musical Imagination of Lesh” by Brent Wood (a rather technical essay on Lesh’s style)

http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2011/08/ives-touch.html

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Aug 11, 2011 9:41am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

Just wonderful . I love Charles Ives, definitely one of my heros ! One of the things that is so interesting about him, is his ability to be both looking backward toward the 19th century, in an almost sentimental way, and yet look forward in a thoroughly innovative, visionary way, at the same time ! Another thing about him that I like is his sense of humor,I think he represents the best that is America ( sorta like this site's band ).
Again, thanks .

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Poster: boat man Date: Aug 11, 2011 10:47am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

I have to agree; if I had but one word to give, WOW would be it.
That was both very interesting and illuminating.
I had to print it out to digest it, but found it layerd well enough for the layman {that I am} to swollow it as a whole. I believe my ears have actually been tuned slightly.
Anyway, enough of the gush, I also found myself wanting, as when reading most of your stuff, footnotes, an index, and a bibliography to go along with it. Your desk must be a mess.
Well done.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 11, 2011 11:58am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

I'm glad people find this readable; I usually think my stuff's too dense or disjointed or rambling for others to enjoy.
Things may be a mess around here, but my Dead books are stacked quite neatly!

"footnotes, an index, and a bibliography..."

Actually, I've been asked to provide sources before as well. I'm hesitant about that, especially online when I want essays to look "accessible" to everyone and not stuffed with scholarly footnotes... There are close to 90 quotes used in this essay; citing them may be useful for others but makes it more burdensome for me, and this is hard enough to do as it is... And so many of them are really well-known or easy to find, most of them are in just a half-dozen books.
If I were "in print," I wouldn't hesitate to use footnotes, and for more than just citations; but I see myself as more of an unqualified amateur providing outlines for other more knowledgeable people to improve on in the future.

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Poster: boat man Date: Aug 11, 2011 12:25pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

Your modesty os part of the charm.
I actually find you very readable, and casually so.
You pick a simple thesis, start at the beginning, and document it well in an evolving, story-like way without being repititous or sesquipedal. You couldn't ask for more.
As for being an "unqualified amateur", as I've said before, I think you keep your cards close to your chest.

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Poster: WillCo Date: Aug 11, 2011 1:57pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

The other great Ives!

Sorry, but I grew up listening to Burl and I can never hear mention of Charles Ives without reaching for Burl Ives instead.

I wanted to find a link to "Wake Nicodemus", my favourite song that he did, but this will have to do: "The Whale" (sung to the same tune that Garcia and Grisman used on "A Horse Named Bill" and therefore Dead-related).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4FC04K2R7E

Please forgive this interruption. I return forumites to Charles Ives for the remainder of this thread.

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Poster: matchstickstatue Date: Aug 13, 2011 12:24pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

Long time lurker, first time poster.

Just wanted to thank you for a fascinating read. Inspired me to grab a copy of the 4th (just as the recent discussion of Weir and Bartok brought me to a stunning SACD of the "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste").

Ives was beloved by many artists of the era. He remains, e.g. a continual reference for the Fugs' Ed Sanders. Ives was assuredly a model for their collage of found weirdness 'Virgin Forest':

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stw3yLwWlN8

and in his poetry, Sanders often refers to him as a model of keeping faith in one's art alive against all odds, as in this pithy number:

The World Not Paying Enough Attention to Your Art?

1902
Charles Ives Finished his
2nd Symphony
which would not
be performed in public
til 1951

Anywho, thanks for the excellent reminder of Ives' power and influence. I've got a lot of listening to do.

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Poster: 219mid Date: Aug 11, 2011 7:03am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

Nice to see some pub for Ives. His father was a bandleader in their town in New England, back when every town had at least one band. For fun, the father would have two bands start at opposite ends of town playing different music and converge and march through/past each other just to see what it sounded like. Similarly, Allen Toussaint once told me that back in the day of public dances in New Orleans there would be a bandstand at each end of the hall, at when the time came to change a band at each end would overlap their playing in a similar way. The recording of the 2d Ives Symphiny by the great composer/conductor Bernard Herrmann is still available and a real killer.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 10, 2011 8:41pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

Wow. Even for you, LIA, I think that is a superb essay. This is more directly relevant to my own area of expertise than most GD writing and research, and I think everything you wrote is right on target. I cannot praise this highly enough.

This is one of my favorite of your posts. I also have to give you real praise for the objectivity of your commentary on the later space jams, which I know are not one of your personally most enjoyed aspects. You (completely correctly I think) put their content and nature into context with the band's approach to music-making, and you avoid dragging what is essentially a scholarly essay off track into debating the question of whether or not these segments of music are an aesthetic success or not. I think you have definitely perceived the essence of how Space was, at its best, a continuation of one of the "main arteries" of their musical lifeblood.

There is so much substance to a long post like this that I hesitate to make many scattershot observations in response. I will need to read through this several more times.

Between this post and AltheaRose's photo-essay, it has been a pretty amazing 24 hours here on the forum. LIA, I wish there was a way to adequately express how much I think you are doing great things for Grateful Dead scholarship and writing.

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Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Aug 11, 2011 4:44am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

"Between this post and AltheaRose's photo-essay, it has been a pretty amazing 24 hours here on the forum."

To amplify that - I'd say the the last two weeks (post-troll-b.s.) here on the forum have been a superb tribute to JG and GD music in general, very fitting for "the days between." We've had lively discussions (and some extremely good writing) on the 80s and keyboard players, favorite performances, Jerry's visual art, the GD repertoire/song catalog, whether or not the band felt limited by their audience, and more. Thanks to all for very enlightening posts.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 10, 2011 10:16pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

Ah....I knew this would be up your alley; you probably could have written this one! I know I left out a lot. This was an attempt to go outside my range a bit. I know not many people will be interested in this one; but at least it's out there for future reference...

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Aug 10, 2011 10:41pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

Once again LIA you have delivered such an information dense,interestingly presented piece on a very difficult subject to capture,and then take it another step and tie it into the music of the GD.It will take me at least one more reading to cull some of the major points brought forth,but it was just so packed with interesting stuff.Over the last few weeks I have been listening to some composers suggested by bkidwll,Lygeti,Boulez,Shoenberg and I stumbled across Elliot Carter,Varese and Charles Ives.I listenened to a performance of the 4th symphony by Michael Tilson Thomas and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on youtube.There is just so much going on it is almost overwhelming,I sat back and said to myself it would take an awful lot of dedicated listening to just get a toehold on what is happening with this guy,and now you put out this flood of info making it even more appealing.Damn you LIA,I have my hands full just trying to figure out this GD stuff,and you and your buddy bkidwell have to dangle the classical carrot.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 11, 2011 7:09am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

I'll try to offer a few random comments as I read through your post again (for about the fourth time now, it's that good!)

One of the things that makes Ives so interesting as an "innovator" is that he was really off in his own corner of the musical universe. It wasn't like he was in Paris hob-nobbing with the avant-garde cafe society, he was mostly writing "for himself" due to the challenge of getting his music performed. There was also, at one point, a bit of controversy about the chronology of various innovations. Ives, like many composers, often revised earlier compositions years later, so it can be difficult to put a precise date on when he first made use of a given musical technique. There is a fun anecdote about Ives which might be apocryphal: he was at a performance which included music by another adventurous composer (Ruggles) and when the audience was booing, Ives shouted at them to shut up and listen because the dissonance was good, strong, and manly! A lot of people though say that Ives was far too quiet and reserved to do something like that publicly.

The simultaneous intermingling of diverse elements and thematic references is what Ives is most remembered for, and I think it is absolutely right to hear the Grateful Dead's free use of rock, folk, jazz, blues, classical, everything, as a continuation of that concept. Juxtaposing contrasting genres within a single piece of music is almost commonplace now, but Ives was "sampling" a long time before hiphop.

"Anthem of the Sun" is definitely the most Lesh-controlled and Ives-influenced of the band's albums - and I think it is frustrating that Anthem is so disappointing in comparison to its source material. The band's live shows in late 67 and early 68 are so amazing, but Anthem's attempt to combine them in the studio drains the music of the impact it originally possessed. Anthem seems to me like an example of the brain ignoring the ears - couldn't they hear how amazing the core live recordings were in comparison to the diffuse sound of the album?

I think your observation about "Viola Lee Blues" is right on - it is definitely the "ur-jam song" where they tried to combine absolutely everything they knew or could imagine. It is very symbolic that their arrangement began with a full 12-tone simultaneity, a literal example of everything superimposed on top of everything. I sometimes think of VLB as the Big Bang at the origin of the GD's distinctive musical universe.

The moments when Lesh seems to "go berserk" and cranks up his bass incredibly loud and more or less overpowers the band single-handedly are always some of my personal favorites. 72-73 seem to have the highest density of outbreaks of Leshmania, often near the end of Dark Star.

Music linked to a particular place or historical event is a theme of Ives, but "program music" was also fairly common earlier in the 19th century. Sometimes composers would make use of a "secret program" where they would have a particular story in mind while composing, but they wouldn't necessarily reveal what it was!

My final comment is that while I enjoy Ives quite a bit, I don't end up listening to him all that much - and this is largely because the Grateful Dead do a good job satiating my thirst for dissonant music incorporating distinctively American elements. My non-GD listening time usually goes in the direction of classical music without a strongly dissonant or experimental aspect.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 11, 2011 10:36am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

I'm glad you find some value in the essay!

That's kind of a typical Ives story... He did see dissonance as being strong & manly, and considered "pretty" music to be effeminate stuff for sissies. He had quite the macho passion for music, really, and had lots of complaints about people who only wanted to coddle their ears. I think he did say, "Use your ears like men!" at one performance.

Ives was pretty much thought of as a crank at the time (by those who even knew he composed), and how much he even knew about the European innovations when he wrote a piece is in question. He had a habit of revising pieces endlessly; later in life when he became more well-known & "respectable" and had heard newer material from Europe, he'd keep tinkering with his older pieces, adding dissonances! So there is much dispute about the timeline of a lot of things; but little about how innovative he was in general.
There's a very amusing story (of debatable accuracy) that when Ives wrote a song in which he appears to have used the 12-tone method several years before Schoenberg discovered it, he said, "It’s too easy, any high school student could do it..."

You're hearing Anthem in a different way than the Dead did... Lesh & Garcia were at the controls, and they said many times it was a 'concept piece', representing an altered state of consciousness, not an attempt to straightforwardly present their music.
When they heard the tapes of the unaltered live shows that we love so much, they were disappointed! (Garcia & Lesh at least tended to just hear what was wrong with the playing.) It was natural to them to cut-up & overdub shows... (Indeed, the surprise is that they didn't do that for Live/Dead, as they did on most of the others up to Dead Set.)
The Dead's disappointment with Anthem mainly came from technical things, like the muffled sound, or that it didn't match what they heard in their heads. Garcia said later, "There's parts of it that sound dated, but parts of it are far-out, even too far-out... I think of it in terms of something we were trying to do but didn't succeed in doing... On one level it's successful, in terms of the form & structure - but in terms of the way in the individual things are performed, it's a drag."

Ives did offer essays about the "story" he was representing in the music, and people ever since have used those as the standard themes by which the music is interpreted. I guess that's common in the classical field, but it seems like cheating to me. It's like the Dead offering a program for Dark Star about what the 'storyline' of the music is....well, in a way, that's a bad example since the lyrics do that of course, so maybe a better example would be Playing in the Band or Alligator or Viola Lee, where the jam has no connection with the lyrics, and no 'interpretation' you're supposed to pick up on...

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 11, 2011 11:46am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

The debate over whether instrumental music should be thought of as "purely abstract" and narrative or illustrative music is on a lower plane is one of the standard debates in the aesthetics of classical music. Conventional wisdom is that music like Beethoven's string quartets is "more pure" than narrative music like Liszt's tone poems. Sometimes composers would write the music without thinking of a program, then try to tack one on later. Mahler went back and forth, sometimes offering titles and programs for his symphonies, sometimes disavowing what he had said previously.

Of course Anthem is great in an absolute sense, it is certainly the most successful of any of the band's "studio" albums at capturing the essence of the Grateful Dead, even though it isn't really a studio album! The problem is that we can now compare it with the live performances that are used as the source material, and basically Anthem is at its best when there is a single, non-manipulated live recording playing. All of the layering, cross-fading, and studio-recorded material doesn't end up adding anything positive (with the semi-exception of TC's prepared piano bit) to my ear, it just muddies up the sound and musical continuity.

I mean, if you compare 2/14/68 to "Anthem of the Sun" there is really no comparison, the straight live performance just blows Anthem completely out of the water. If the calamity of losing all the recordings from that era had happened, Anthem would be invaluable for how it captures pieces of multiple performances, and it is still important for its place in the history of the band, but I still think it represents somewhat of a squandered opportunity.

To me, it is an example of the band underestimating just how successful their live performances already were - Phil really had the idea of Ivesian hypermusic in mind, and the idea of taking multiple performances and combining them is certainly exciting conceptually, but when I listen, it doesn't have the exciting kaleidoscopic effect that I know was intended. The idea of multiple versions of the band all starting in synchrony and then starting to diverge from each other is a great idea, but I don't think its really successful when embodied in sound - the same might be said of a lot of 20th century musical experiments!

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 11, 2011 12:45pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

Yeah...
But it's not like, after spending months in the studio mixing it, they would say, "oops, that didn't work," throw it out & start over! They did it the hardest technical way possible, and were probably quite thrilled with their radical concept at the time...if the album is kind of blurry & muddled, the band themselves were too... If Lesh was thinking of Ivesian hypermusic, Garcia was probably thinking, "Let's make it like a hallucination and get it all spacy & weird!"
(It might be worth comparing with other albums coming out in '68 too...Jefferson Airplane's Bathing at Baxter's came out while the Dead were doing Anthem, for instance.)

The Dead had plenty of opportunity in '68 to just release a straight live album, and the record company would've been happy to do that....but rather than consider that, the band just bickered over who in the band wasn't playing well enough!
We're fortunate that by '69 they were financially desperate enough to release Live/Dead, thanks to all those months in the studio tinkering with Anthem & Aoxomoxoa...

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Aug 11, 2011 8:48am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

I actually think Anthem was a huge success! I haven’t heard it in years, but I’m basing that on how it impacted me when I first heard it, when there really weren’t live 60s recordings in circulation – certainly nothing remotely like what we have now. So in my book, whatever it may sound like in retrospect and however it may compare to the intent or its sources, it really did succeed at conveying something crucial about the GD sound and feel at its most psychedelic, experimental and offbeat.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 11, 2011 12:19pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

I also think Anthem is the best Dead studio album.... Ironically, since not much of the playing is "studio"!
But I think it conveys the essence of Dead-ness more than any later studio stuff... I know others prefer the more 'straight pop' albums of 1970 or later; but they fall flat for me, knowing what live shows sounded like. You might say live Dead ruined me for album Dead!

Garcia himself liked Aoxomoxoa more for what the Dead achieved, strangely...though I thought he kind of slaughtered it in the remix.
He also thought Mars Hotel was the Dead's best studio album.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Aug 10, 2011 11:09pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The Ives Touch, Part II

I think it's super interesting. There's a lot there to think about, and some new angles on things, for me, anyway. I'm really attracted to the whole found-object sensibility and the experimental/avante-garde mode of questioning expectations for art in the early 20th century (when avante garde had meaning); but I'm not really keyed into how it manifested in classical music -- I think I get put off by the "high art" classification.

One of the hard things with Ives has to be that, in using found sound, the meaning has changed ... if we hear, say, a hymn tune or Yankee Doodle now, we just don't hear it as something from popular culture/a streetscape/presentness. It's become congealed a bit as The Past, and a somewhat stereotyped version of The Past, too, so it can seem simply quaint. It's interesting to try to get past that, though, and see/hear in context. Of course that's true of all art/music.

I hadn't thought of MIDI in terms of just plain fun and the band just entertaining themselves with the humor of it. I like that. Don't care for the MIDI sound, but I may hear it somewhat differently with that in mind as one of the aspects.



This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2011-08-11 06:09:04

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 11, 2011 6:26am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: High Art

>I'm really attracted to the whole found-object sensibility and the experimental/avante-garde mode of questioning expectations for art in the early 20th century (when avante garde had meaning); but I'm not really keyed into how it manifested in classical music -- I think I get put off by the "high art" classification.

The bizarre sociocultural status of "classical" music has been, quite literally, one of the Banes of my existence. Since adolescence, I have far preferred the music of deceased Europeans to anything save the GD, but I have never come to terms with the social conventions that entomb the music. On the personal level, I have always embraced the countercultural sensibility, and I have a fairly violent negative reaction to the ideas of "fastidious formal presentation" that enshroud orchestral concerts and instrumental recitals.

In college as a music student, the cultural gulf between myself and the majority of my fellow students was huge. What it made it somewhat amusing was that I was much more passionate and knowledgeable about classical music, especially analytical theory, than my more straitlaced peers. (I was, however, less technically skilled as a performer, and in the bottom quartile in terms of "innate musicality" in matters such as perfect pitch or ability to sight-sing.)

It was sort of a running joke - I was the only guy in the music theory and music history classes who could already write in correct four part counterpoint and could rattle off from memory the chronology of all of Schumann's solo piano works, but I was also the only freak wearing ragged clothes who hadn't had a haircut in over a decade.

I found the formality and conventionality and obedience to authority within the cultural world of classical music to be fundamentally at odds with my own personality, and as a result, I abandoned my hopes of a professional career in the field. I'm still bitter about it, because I believe the actual content of classical music is antithetical to its cultural box.

In life, I've never resolved the paradox. I spend all my time studying modern physics, classical music, computer programming, analytic philosophy - but on the personal level, I am not socially comfortable in the straitlaced environments of the academic study of science and mathematics or classical performance. The people I get along with personally are always socially marginalized nonconformists who are rarely educated about or even interested in the same topics as myself.

Posting here, I feel a lot more comfortable than usual, but I'm still always worried that my love for contextualizing the GD within the European art-music tradition and using a lot of music theoretical vocabulary makes me seem like I'm cloaking my opinions with the socially privileged High Art status of classical music. I feel personally conflicted about it, because I can't rely deny that I do believe that classical music is "greater" than most contemporary popular music, and that one of the reasons the Grateful Dead is the greatest rock band of all time is that their music is founded upon some of the same principles and techniques as composers like Ives and many others.

The bottom line is that orchestra concerts should be more like Grateful Dead concerts, because there is nothing dry and formal about the content of the music - it only seems that way because of the presentation.

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Aug 11, 2011 6:53pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: High Art

This is really fascinating - I always kind of wondered if there weren't people who felt like you do ... now I know! I always look at concert performers and vaguely think, good thing I'm not musical, performing must be pretty cool but DAMN those are very uncomfortable clothes and what is all this bowing and scraping?! It's totally fascinating to imagine that maybe it doesn't need to be that way - that classical music could be combined with a countercultural ... culture! You need to start a revolution! Yeah, why aren't we allowed to dance and smoke and what-not at the orchestra?!

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Aug 11, 2011 9:59am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: High Art

I got a kick out of your college expereice . When I took Music History, I found I was more into it than the music majors were ( I was a history major ). It was definetely the " how did this hippie get in here " sort of thing, and they were not too friendly ! I ended up in retail, selling music . I think you might enjoy this look at when I was still in the battle .
http://artsblog.ocregister.com/2006/10/25/so-long-charlie-goodbye-tower/559/

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Aug 11, 2011 7:55pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: High Art

That's great. Thanks for sharing that.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 11, 2011 10:45am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: High Art

Totally awesome, thanks for sharing that. It really hits home for me, because the downtown record store in my hometown had an amazing "Classical basement" run by a very distinctive and eccentric music lover. I really miss it now that its gone. Thanks for all the great work done by you and people like you to help people like me discover great music.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Aug 11, 2011 9:01am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: High Art

I think the 19th century in particular (and the past in general) is horribly misunderstood – straight-jacketed, really. Young people were often criticized in popular magazines for going to the opera too much. (It was seen as part of disreputable "craving for excitement.") I’ve heard from my parents about coal miners and Italian laborers and Polish butchers playing classical music and singing opera arias ... so it clearly wasn't inaccessable or all about stuffy "church manners." And the stereotype of a musician or composer seemed to have been very bohemian and rather suspect -- the guys you don't want around your daughters. Of course, all that has been lost and marble-ized.

Btw, and I doubt very much that anyone who has ever read an interview with Phil would think you can’t be obsessed with classical music and be into the Dead, LOL. I think even the others make the occasional classical reference in interviews. Though I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything from Pigpen in that vein ... come to think of it, ARE there Pigpen interviews?

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 11, 2011 9:18am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the 1840s make the 1960s look like the 1720s

Indeed, AR, when we study the career of Franz Liszt (who was one of many virtuosos who established the template of the "rock star" as combining libertine sensualism with quasi-religious fervor) or read about the revolutionary struggles of the 1840s in Europe, all stereotypes of "stuffiness" vanish, and are replaced by the red blood of human passions. The 19th century is actually the Romantic era in music, and to my ears, the best composers captured emotional intensity much more clearly in their music than the musical language of today.

I'm also interested in whether or not Pig was ever interviewed. I don't recall ever hearing of such a thing!

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 11, 2011 10:27am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: High Art

Pigpen WAS interviewed a couple times! - by Creem magazine in 1970, and by Hank Harrison for his book. I have not seen them, though. It's a reminder that MOST Dead history is still buried away in libraries or collections, and is relatively inaccessible to most people - I can only draw on the sliver that's been republished.

Weir has talked the most about his interest in classical music, which seems to be just as direct as Phil's. Offhand I don't remember Garcia ever talking about it.

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Poster: snow_and_rain Date: Aug 11, 2011 11:26am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Pigpen

He took part in this humorous 1966 interview..

http://www.angelfire.com/fl/goodbear/interview66.html

Starts like this:

DJ: ... Around the, uh, table we’ll go, meet first Pigpen. What a horrible name.

Pigpen: Not my fault, Jerry gave it to me.

DJ: What’s your real name?

Pigpen: Ron.

DJ: Ron? Uh, your fan club yesterday or something was telling me you’re 21 years old...

Pigpen: Um-hm.

DJ: You look like 38... what happened, I know.

Pigpen: Umm... couldn’t tell ya.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 11, 2011 11:44am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Pigpen

Oh yes, thanks. Not much of an "interview" really, but I guess as good as we can expect from 1966!

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